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Jury splits rulings, sides with Depp on lawsuit, Heard over defamation

DENISE LAVOIE
The Associated Press

FAIRFAX, Va. — A jury on Wednesday ruled in favor of Johnny Depp in his libel lawsuit against ex-wife Amber Heard, vindicating his stance that Heard fabricated claims that she was abused by Depp before and during their brief marriage.

The jury also found in favor of Heard, who said she was defamed by Depp's lawyer when he called her abuse allegations a hoax.

Jury members found Depp should be awarded $15 million in damages, while Heard should receive $2 million.

The verdicts bring an end to a televised trial that Depp had hoped would help restore his reputation, though it turned into a spectacle of a vicious marriage. Fans — overwhelmingly on Depp's side — lined up overnight to grab a seat in the courtroom. Spectators who couldn't get in lined up on the street to cheer Depp and jeer Heard whenever either appeared outside.

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Depp sued Heard for libel in Fairfax County Circuit Court over a December 2018 op-ed she wrote in The Washington Post describing herself as "a public figure representing domestic abuse." His lawyers said he was defamed by the article even though it never mentioned his name.

This combination of two separate photos shows actors Johnny Depp, left, and Amber Heard in the courtroom for closing arguments at the Fairfax County Circuit Courthouse in Fairfax, Va., on Friday, May 27, 2022. Depp is suing Heard after she wrote an op-ed piece in The Washington Post in 2018 referring to herself as a "public figure representing domestic abuse." (AP Photos/Steve Helber, Pool)

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP's earlier story follows below.

FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) — A jury on Wednesday said it has reached a verdict in Johnny Depp's libel lawsuit against his ex-wife Amber Heard, who testified that Depp physically and sexually assaulted her on multiple occasions.

The jury also has reached a verdict regarding a $100 million counterclaim Heard filed against Depp. Heard said she was defamed when Depp's lawyer called her abuse allegations a hoax.

The verdicts were expected to be read inside the Virginia court at 3 p.m. Wednesday, but the judge sent the jury back because it had not completely filled out the verdict form. The seven-person civil jury had to come to a unanimous decision to reach each verdict. They deliberated for about 12 hours over three days.

Depp is suing his ex-wife for $50 million, accusing her of libeling him with a 2018 op-ed she wrote describing herself as "a public figure representing domestic abuse." Heard filed a $100 million counterclaim against the "Pirates of the Caribbean" star after his lawyer called her allegations a hoax. Each accuses the other of destroying their career.

Testimony during the six-week trial has included lurid details of their short and volatile marriage. Heard testified that Depp physically or sexually assaulted her more than a dozen times. Depp said he never struck Heard, that she concocted the abuse allegations, and that she was the one who physically attacked him, multiple times.

Jurors must decide both claims based on whether or not the statements were made with "actual malice," meaning they knew what they were saying was false, or were acting with a reckless disregard for the truth.

During closing arguments, both sides told the jury that a verdict in their favor would give their clients their lives back.

Depp hasn't been waiting in Virginia for the decision. He's spent the last few days on stage, singing and playing guitar with Jeff Beck in the United Kingdom.

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